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We Love Our Volunteers! Spotlight: Shannon McDonald

Clean Water, Strong Communities!

It takes a community of people to grow a community of trees. As another tree planting approaches, Blue Water Baltimore celebrates the strong communities that work hard to clean our waterways. Check out the following spotlights to learn about some of our most dedicated partners and volunteers.

Shannon McDonald

Over a decade ago, Shannon got involved with the Jones Falls Watershed Association (one of the 5 “legacy organizations” that merged to become BWB in 2010). Since then, she has volunteered across all of our programs and is currently a Neighborhood Tree Steward in Knollwood, helping support our Baltimore County yard tree program.

This past winter, Shannon attended almost all of our pruning parties. She impressed our team with her go-getter attitude and especially excelled with the 16-foot (heavy & unwieldy) extended pole clip, determinedly reaching the very top of trees to resolve structural issues before the tree matures.

Learn more about what it’s like to volunteer & partner with Blue Water Baltimore through our Q & A with Shannon below.

1. Tell us more about how you first got involved with BWB?

In 2009-2010, I got involved with the Jones Falls Watershed Association through a friend where I’d participate in stream cleanups along the Jones Falls Expressway. Jamie was incredibly passionate about the work and I was envious that she was able to kayak along the JFX to clean it up! While I never got to do that, I still participated in the land-based cleanups and have ever since!

Knollwood Neighborhood Tree Stewards Shannon (Right) and Lauren (Left)planting a new river birch last December. Volunteer Tree Stewards spend countless hours helping their neighbors sign up for yard trees with the goal of increasing the local canopy.

2. Talk about your experience as a Neighborhood Tree Steward for our Baltimore County yard tree program.

I first learned about Blue Waters tree giveaways at a Baltimore City event. As a Baltimore County resident, I wondered how I could plant more natives and if there were giveaways here. I purchased my first native tree through the program and as I was discussing which one to choose, BWB’s Senior Manager of Operations, Darin Crew, asked if I’d be interested in helping my neighbors select theirs. With my educational background in Landscape Design from George Washington University and my personal interest in natives it was an easy fit. It’s also how I’ve met some amazing neighbors who I might not have interacted with prior. I’m asked all the time what tree/shrub works best and I am grateful to live so close to Herring Run Nursery and can direct others there too! As the program grows, so does our canopy and cleaner waters.

(Note: Blue Water Baltimore plants trees on residential property across Baltimore County through our cost-share yard tree program. We work closely with the Neighborhood Tree Stewards, who promote the program to their neighbors and help them select appropriate species and sites.)

3. What do you enjoy most about volunteering with Blue Water Baltimore?

The people that you meet when you’re walking down the street! Meeting new fellow volunteers, amazing staff at Blue Water and any person impacted by a planting or pruning. That’s the best part. A smiling kid looking up at a tree or a person asking why the work is being done. I love the impact and the education. For pruning events, it’s knowing that I’m helping this particular tree grow to the best of its potential in the urban environment. It’s also powerful to wield the fully extended pole clip!

Happy tree pruners at a tree pruning party in Greektown. Improving accessibility for pedestrians along our city streets while also providing our street trees with a little TLC is satisfying work.

4. Do you have a favorite memory of a BWB event?

The monarch butterfly tagging at Gallagher Services in Timonium. It was hard not to get swept up in each person’s excitement regardless of age or capability surrounded by all of the monarchs!

5. What do you do when you’re not volunteering with us?

My joy is being outside, so if I’m not out hiking/biking/paddling/floating with my kiddos and spouse, then I’m encouraging others to find a way to be out in nature and comfortable doing so. 

6. What motivates you to keep coming back?

The people and knowing it’s making a difference. The work that Blue Water does: advocacy, awareness, correcting long term environmental injustices. How could one not want to be a part of this good!

7. What is your favorite type of tree?

I will always be a sucker for a beautiful Eastern hemlock! Its cones are so dainty, needles so soft and such a remarkable tree.

4. Anything else you’d like to share!

I admire the work that the staff of Blue Water has been able to accomplish and continues to do so, THANK YOU!


If you’re considering getting involved in volunteering, the TreeKeepers city stewardship program (via TreeBaltimore) is a great way to start learning more about trees and ways to stay engaged.


This blog will be updated regularly with additional volunteer spotlights!


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